Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Visual Thinking Process and Idea Herding

My concept of Idea Herding in some ways mirrors Dan Roan’s concept of the Visual Thinking Process, which he describes so eloquently in his book The Back of the Napkin. His process has four parts:
  • Looking = Collecting and screening 
  • Seeing = Selecting and clumping 
  • Imagining = Seeing what isn’t here 
  • Showing = Making all things clear 
When I begin a new project, my first step is to take in as much information as I can. I often refer to this as sniffing around. Sometimes my brain feels like it is twisting itself into knots. I often feel that I am on sensory overload, yet I also love this part of the process.

I next try to understand how the information fits together. I look for categories and flows of information. This is perhaps the heart of true herding for me. I look for gaps in the information that require new research. I also look for extraneous information that can be saved for another project or completely ignored.

Our concepts diverge from here because we are using them for different purposes. Whereas Roan uses his Visual Thinking Process to solve a business problem, I am usually using Idea Herding to create a product: a class, a speech, a manual, etc. So, I next imagine the design of the product so that it will meet the needs of a particular audience. Roan talks about “applied imagination,” which is a way of manipulating the information from the earlier two steps for a particular purpose. The discussion of his SQUID model is well worth the price of the book and is too complex to show here.

What I like most about Roan’s concept is the use of visuals at every step of the process. For me idea herding is usually a visual—and sometimes kinesthetic—process. Both processes can go beyond words in order to draw upon more of the brain’s wisdom.